Thursday, February 2, 2012

Academic Language


Note: There is an increasing interest in academic language, not only with students’ whose native language is not English (vs. conversational skills) but also with students whose native language is English. Academic language requires attention to its complexity. RayS.

Question: How define academic language?

Answer/Quote: Snow (2010) noted: “There is no exact boundary when defining academic language; it falls toward one end of a continuum (defined by formality of tone, complexity of content, and degree of impersonality of stance), with informal, casual, conversational language at the other extreme).” P. 450.

Question: What are some questions that cause students to think about the nature of academic vocabulary?

Academic language domain
Interpersonal stance: .Does the way this is written tell us anything about who the author is or what he or she believed? Why or why not?

Information Load: .How many pieces or chunks of information are in this sentence?
.Why is there so much information packed into this paragraph?

Organization of Information: .What clue words and pieces of information did the author give us so we can follow where this paragraph is going?

.Are there some clue words that tell us about relationships? For example, can we tell if there are smaller ideas/things that are part of bigger or overarching ideas/things?

Lexical Choices: .Do we see some phrases that we don’t often use when we speak? Why are they here? Are there many different words in this passage? Why do you think that is necessary? Some of these words are challenging—what do they tell us that easier words might not be able to tell us?

Representational Congruence: .Do you see any words that represent a process or something happening? Why would the author use just one word to say that and not explain the whole process?

.It doesn’t look like we can tell who was doing the action in this sentence (e.g., ‘the telephone was invented’); why would that be the case?

Comment: The authors encourage teachers to model with their students how they would answer these questions. RayS.

Title: “Words as Tools: Learning Academic Vocabulary as Language Acquisition.” W Nagy and D Townsend. Reading Research Quarterly (January/February/March 2012), 91-108.

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